This was our 13th cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line and our fourth time sailing on the Jade. We keep returning to NCL for two reasons: their free-style concept and the excellent service given by each and every member of crew and staff on board their ships.
This cruise took us to Turkey (Antalya rather than Alanya since the sea swell and winds were too high to go there), Cyprus (Limassol), Israel (overnight in Haifa as Ashdod cancelled), Iraklion (Crete, Greece) and Naples (Italy). The main purpose of taking this cruise was to visit Israel.
Israel was most impressive. We had chosen tours that took us to Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. We were able to visit each of these cities, and many more along the way. Each city brought its own special aspects to light. It was interesting to hear about the religious historical importance that each place held and still holds to this day.
Having been to Turkey on a cruise once before, we decided to see this port on our own. We simply walked around and enjoyed the sites. It is an ideal spot for purchasing all manner of leather goods, but bargains must be hunted for, if you are so inclined. Of course, you must sample -- and perhaps later purchase -- Turkish Delight which is more or less a form of candy that is available in several flavours, all of which are natural products.
In Cyprus and Iraklion, we took tours which informed us about history and archaeology. We visited a few museums of history in Cyprus to learn about its past and its development. We also heard about the Turkish Invasion of 1974 and how it divided the island. In Iraklion, we had a tour which focused on the ruins of a great castle/fortress at Knossos. It was interesting to learn how such a structure could have been planned and built, and about how it was used and how many people lived there. An interest in history and archaeology is absolutely essential and would not go amiss for such tours.
We had been to Naples three times before this cruise took us there. We spent our time there just walking around and taking in the sites, particularly places we'd never taken the chance to see before. It was pleasant to sit at a sidewalk cafe, watching people and traffic go by while we enjoyed an espresso and pastry.
Having been on the Jade for 3 previous cruises, there is not much to add about the ship. It started its career as the Pride of Hawai'i (2006) and was re-furbished to become the Jade in 2008. Although it has been re-furbished, it still carries much of its original decor which includes artificial Hawai'an and Polynesian flowers at the elevator banks and similarly themed artworks both inside and outside of the ship. The Aloha Bar in the Atrium and the Bali Hai bar, among others, remind us of its origins. At first, this seems quite out of place on a Mediterranean and Holy Land cruise, but then you get used to it. After all you are on a cruise to see different lands, so the decor of the ship becomes something of least important.
We had good service from our stateroom attendant who kept our cabin clean. The restaurant staff couldn't do enough to make sure we had fantastic dining experiences, offering to bring more of the foods we'd ordered. Everyone on board went out of his/her way to ensure that we had a wonderful cruise. Every request was honoured, every question answered, and all with a smile. Many of the staff and crew took time from their very busy schedules to help us and to speak with us. It was like seeing good friends and family again.
We already have 2 cruises planned for 2013, both which we are looking forward to doing.